You’re standing in the aisle at the store, wondering which is the healthier choice; white chocolate vs milk chocolate? Is one superior to the other?
One is better than the other and it all boils down to how they make it.
As a Culinary Dietitian, I’ll provide you my best advice on which is healthier including the difference between their ingredients, calories, and taste.
Not to mention some cooking tips of which chocolate to use depending on your intended use.
And yes we’ll answer the age old question of is white chocolate actually chocolate?
How Chocolate is Made
To understand the difference between white and milk chocolate, you first have to understand how chocolate is made.
Chocolate comes from cocoa beans. Large pods grow on the Theobroma Cacao tree encasing 20-50 beans each. The beans have a coat of white pulp for protection.
Fun fact; this pulp is actually sweet and completely edible.
The beans are harvested, dried, roasted and then cooled. Roasting helps enhance the flavor by reducing the bitterness.
Then they crack the beans and mash them between two hot rollers until it forms a paste. This is chocolate liquor (and no this is not the alcohol).
This chocolate liquor is pressed to extract a white cocoa butter. As its name suggests, cocoa butter is a fat containing both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
However, in this case it’s a good saturated fat because it’s stearic acid. The liver converts this particular fatty acid to oleic acid – a heart healthy fat.
This is why cocoa butter is a sought after ingredient – not just in the culinary world. You’ve probably seen lotions or lip balm that contain cocoa butter as an ingredient.
The fatty acid composition helps to nourish, hydrate, and retain moisture to skin.
After pressing the chocolate liquor to make cocoa butter, they cool the remnants, grind, and sift it to make cocoa powder.
The process of making chocolate consists of heating and blending the chocolate liquor and then tempering it (cooling it down in small batches). This is to ensure the cocoa butter crystals are small and uniform.
This is what gives chocolate the shiny bright color and audible snap when broken.
This plain chocolate is the foundation of the numerous types of chocolate varieties that we are familiar with.
The most popular chocolate on the market. It’s easy to work worth and has a more neutral taste and palatability than other chocolate varieties.
Milk chocolate is just the plain chocolate from above and mixing it with milk powder. Milk is what adds that unmistakable richness we associate chocolate with.
Some chocolate companies may also add varying amounts of sugar to their mixture for an even sweeter taste.
An average full-size milk chocolate bar contains about 210 calories. These calories primarily come from the fat aka the cocoa butter.
Milk chocolate provides very little protein or carbohydrates in the macronutrient comparison.
Milk chocolate has a sweet, rich cocoa flavor. With just ever so slight notes of bitterness.
The mouthfeel is velvety, coating the palate due to the higher fat content.
White chocolate’s origin is unclear but one of the first brands to start commercial production of white chocolate bars was Nestle in the 1930s.
White chocolate is technically not real chocolate because it does not contain any chocolate liquor. It does however contain a large portion of the cocoa butter.
White chocolate ingredients consist mainly of cocoa butter, milk, sugar, and vanilla.
There are about 220 calories in a full-size white chocolate bar. Similar to milk chocolate, these calories mostly come from the fat content.
White chocolate is very sweet, rich in vanilla notes and virtually no bitterness whatsoever.
Because of the high fat content, it also has a particularly smooth velvety mouthfeel as well.
White Chocolate vs Milk Chocolate
So let’s compare these two delicacies, as there are several different characteristics that would determine which chocolate you are going to use.
First off, if we’re comparing which is the better chocolate…there is no comparison as white chocolate is technically not chocolate.
As far as ingredients; cocoa beans are actually graded after removing them from the pods. Higher grade beans have more flavor and are priced accordingly.
But again, as white chocolate does not contain any chocolate liquor (just the extracted fat) grading can’t be used to determine a difference in quality between milk and white chocolate.
White chocolate is not healthier than milk chocolate. It provides more calories because of the higher fat and sugar content and falls very short in providing any nutrients.
Milk chocolate has fewer calories than white chocolate. However, this can vary greatly between brands as added ingredients must be considered too as they could add to the calorie count, such as sugar.
White chocolate tastes much sweeter than milk chocolate, and milk chocolate is already inherently sweet. White chocolate does not contain any of the distinguishable chocolate-bitterness.
Both white and milk chocolate have a very smooth and velvety mouthfeel. This is because, out of all the chocolate varieties, these two have the addition of milk and/or a high ratio of cocoa butter.
Chocolate has a considerable amount of uses besides just for our snacking enjoyment, but it can be a bit temperamental. Listed below are some handling tips.
There are three essential rules for melting chocolate: low heat, lots of stirring, and absolutely no water.
Low heat prevents burning, constant stirring allows for even melting, and as chocolate is naturally a dry ingredient – it’s crucial we keep it that way.
A single drop off water will cause the cocoa and sugar particles to unite creating globs of a thick paste. This is called seizing.
The microwave works best for melting chocolate:
- Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, microwave for 30 seconds.
- Stir well.
- Microwave for 10 second intervals, stirring thoroughly between each session.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of seized chocolate, don’t give up hope quite yet. Sometimes, chocolate does go past the point of no return, but always try the method below before tossing it!
Add one drop of vegetable oil at a time, stirring vigorously to incorporate. Continue adding single drops, pausing to stir and check in between drops, until your chocolate is smooth again.
White chocolate sees a lot of use in decadent desserts where the smooth texture is the main appeal, like cheesecake for example. When this is the case, be sure to use real white chocolate.
Real white chocolate is made with cocoa butter that coats the mouth in a soft, smooth texture.
Imitation white chocolate has alternative fats like palm oil, and won’t have quite the velvety melt-in-your-mouth texture. This chocolate has it’s best uses in decorating or the dipping of chocolate covered pretzels for example.
If needing to substitute white chocolate, your best bet is really just milk chocolate. As white chocolate is an ingredient unique onto itself, there really is no alternative that will provide the exact texture and flavor.
Milk chocolate will obviously have a slightly different taste, but still sweet and smooth.
While milk chocolate is the most popular snacking chocolate, you may notice that milk chocolate is hardly ever an ingredient in recipes.
This is because milk chocolate has a higher sugar content, and besides possibly causing an overly sweet dessert, sugar is sensitive to heat and could cause your sweet treat to burn more easily.
This is why you find semi-sweet chocolate in baking recipes. Save the milk chocolate for your snack drawer at work.
When it comes to white chocolate vs milk chocolate, white chocolate is not better, milk chocolate is actually healthier.
Milk chocolate has the benefit of containing the chocolate liquor which houses all of the phytonutrients with properties that can aid in anti inflammation, improve heart health, and brain function.
White chocolate ingredients are simply the fat of the chocolate liquor, along with sugar, milk, and vanilla. This causes white chocolate to have more calories than milk chocolate.
It’s also because of these ingredients that white chocolate is substantially more sweet than milk chocolate. There is no bitterness from the cocoa bean to offset the sweet.
All in all however, if you are here wondering where chocolate of any kind fits into your health journey or weight loss plan, remember this; moderation.
While milk chocolate does have some health benefits, it’s not the healthiest option out there, and if eaten in excess, the additional empty calories will far outweigh the benefits of the phytonutrients it may provide.
So always remember that moderation is key, as a Dietitian I am always summing up all nutrition advice into one ten word sentence:
Eat foods in their most whole form and in moderation. Chocolate is no exception to this rule.
Enjoy your chocolate craving, just do so with portion control in mind!
**Are you wondering where dark chocolate falls in all of this? Check out some of the FAQ below to learn about the healthiest chocolate choice is…even if it is the most bitter.
What is Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is made the same way as discussed above, however milk or milk powder is not added to the mixture. This keeps the chocolate the dark shade that we recognize.
The different percentages of dark chocolate represent how much of the actual cocoa bean (or chocolate liquor) makes up the bar.
The higher the percentage, the more chocolate liquor and less added sugar. While the health benefits increase with the higher percentage, so does the bitterness.
Dark Chocolate vs White Chocolate
There is more to contrast than compare with dark chocolate vs white chocolate. The first being that white chocolate is not even chocolate.
Dark chocolate is healthier than white chocolate as it has fewer calories and is actually a nutrient-packed snack with all the phytonutrients and antioxidants it contains.
Milk Chocolate vs Dark Chocolate
The difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate is milk. Milk or milk powder is added to milk chocolate (as the name suggests) for a sweeter, more rich product.
Dark chocolate only contains varying degrees of added sugar, but all in all is a healthier, albeit bitter, snack.
White Chocolate vs Milk Chocolate vs Dark Chocolate
If we had to rank these three chocolates from healthiest to least it would go as follows:
Dark Chocolate > Milk Chocolate > White Chocolate